Although not a literal soundtrack to Martin Scorsese's documentary
, No Direction Home
has every reason to exist. With 26 of its 28 tracks previously unreleased, this exceptional release overflows with riches that will enthrall Dylan devotees as well as those drawn, by way of Scorsese's film, to the work of the most important popular composer of the postwar era. Although the segment of Dylan's career represented by the disc is relatively compact (1959-66), no one would deny that these were Dylan's seminal years, the fertile period when he literally changed the nature of songwriting and vocal performance. No Direction Home
begins the Dylan story at its very roots, with two fascinating performances that date back to his high school and brief college days. From there, unreleased takes, demos, and live performances abound, each different enough -- some are quite dissimilar -- from the original issued performances to shed new light on Dylan's compositional and recording methods. While the first of the two CDs concentrates on the acoustic folk years, with superb versions of such anthemic songs as "Blowin' in the Wind," "Chimes of Freedom," and "Masters of War," the second disc documents Dylan's momentous transformation to rock artist. To hear "Maggie's Farm" from the infamous Newport 1965 Folk Festival, and then to listen in as he shapes classic tunes from Highway 61 Revisited
(complete with stunning guitarist work from Michael Bloomfield) is to fully experience the revolutionary, and ultimately triumphant, changes that Dylan brought to popular music worldwide. Unreleased takes from Blonde on Blonde
and a live "Ballad of a Thin Man," accompanied by four-fifths of what would soon become the Band, bring us deeper into Dylan's intensely creative world. In theory, one or more documentaries could follow No Direction Home,
chronicling the ensuing decades of Dylan's amazing musical life, but for now both the film and this latest addition of the "Bootleg" series gives us plenty to simultaneously ponder and thoroughly enjoy.